Eastern states to coordinate regional reopening

Even as President Donald Trump asserted that he is the ultimate decision-maker in reopening the country, the governors from seven contiguous states on Monday pledged to coordinate strategies for reopening their economies after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic passes.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut, Gov. John Carney of Delaware, Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, all Democrats, made the announcement on a public conference call on Monday afternoon. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, was not on the call but will also participate in the joint plan, Cuomo's office announced a few hours later.

"We have been collaborating closely with our neighboring states to combat this pandemic through a uniform approach to social distancing and density reduction and it has been working well," Cuomo said in a statement. "Now it is time to start opening the valve slowly and carefully while watching the infection rate meter so we don't trigger a second wave of new infections."

Trump said Monday on Twitter that some are "saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect...it is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons." He added that he and his administration are working closely with governors.

Cuomo said even if Trump has the legal authority to order businesses and schools to reopen, the states would need a "clearly defined" federal plan to reopen responsibly.

"You want to tell me what to do? Fine," he said. "Then I have to be able to turn around and tell my local governments what to do. So the clarity here is important."

New Jersey's Murphy said that any economy reopening and recovery will have to come "on the back" of a public health recovery.

"The house is still on fire. We still have to put the fire out, but we do have to begin putting in the pieces of the puzzle that we know we're going to need... to make sure this doesn't reignite," Murphy said.

Connecticut's Lamont said that his state's outbreak is mostly along the Interstate-95/Metro-North corridor. He called that commuter corridor the "COVID corridor" and agreed that reopening the region will require working together, especially regarding transportation.

(USGS map)

Prepared statements from the governors:

"We have been collaborating closely with our neighboring states to combat this pandemic through a uniform approach to social distancing and density reduction and it has been working well. Now it is time to start opening the valve slowly and carefully while watching the infection rate meter so we don't trigger a second wave of new infections. This is not a light switch that we can just flick on and everything goes back to normal - we have to come up with a smart, consistent strategy to restart the systems we shut down and get people back to work, and to the extent possible we want to do that through a regional approach because we are a regional economy. New York is partnering with these five states to create a multi-state council that will come up with a framework based on science and data to gradually ease the stay at home restrictions and get our economy back up and running."
—Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York

Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey

"No one has given more thought or is more eager to restart our economy than I am, but if we don't get the sequencing right, we put more lives at risk. The only path to a sustainable economic recovery is through a strong healthcare recovery. Then, and only then, do we position ourselves to fully ignite our economy and get the residents of our state back to work while minimizing the danger of this disease. A coordinated, regional approach, informed by a multi-state council of experts, will help us avoid a major setback with potentially disastrous consequences. I look forward to the day when the facts on the ground allow us to ease our restrictions and move our regional economy forward."
—Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey

Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut

"One thing that's undeniable is that this virus does not stop at the border of any county, state, or country, but the impact is the same when it comes to our respective economies and healthcare systems. Working as a regional coalition to make the right decisions will lead to the best public health results for all of our residents. We must solve these problems together."
—Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut

Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania

"Our highest priority remains protecting the health and safety of Pennsylvanians. While my administration continues to take critical steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, I also recognize that we must look ahead and take a measured, careful approach to prepare for the future while ensuring that we don't undo all of our efforts. Pennsylvania will work collaboratively with our partners both in state and in surrounding states to develop a comprehensive strategy that first focuses on health but also addresses the need to gradually restore our economy."
—Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania

Gov. John Carney of Delaware

"We still have a situation in Delaware that is getting worse. Infections of COVID-19 and hospitalizations are rising. Delawareans should stay home. Don't go out in public unnecessarily. Don't visit Delaware unless you need to see a doctor, or care for a family member. You'll only increase everyone's risk. At the same time, we need to look forward. We need a consistent approach for moving our states out of this crisis, when that day comes. I'm grateful for the partnership of my fellow Governors in the region. They are all working around-the-clock to prevent surges in COVID-19 cases, protect hospital capacity for the most critically-ill patients, and save lives. We'll get through this by working together."
—Gov. John Carney of Delaware

Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island

"States are taking the lead as we fight to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives. I'm proud of the steps we've taken, and I'm constantly thinking about what it will take to safely reopen our economy. But we know that this virus does not recognize borders, and it's clear we need a strong, coordinated regional approach to avoid a second wave of this disease. I'm grateful to my fellow governors for their leadership during this crisis and I'm confident that this new partnership will support our efforts to get Rhode Islanders -- and all Americans -- back to work safely."
—Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island

"The Baker-Polito Administration looks forward to participating in discussions with neighboring states and experts regarding the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Massachusetts also remains focused on efforts to expand testing, ensure hospital capacity and provide the necessary PPE to those on the front lines to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities."
—Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts